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The new Monster Hunter feels like a best of Capcom's series, but it's not quite the best

Grapes of Rathalos.

Firstly, and most importantly, it's worth knowing this: you can now play as a Felyne in Monster Hunter. That alone is likely worth the price of admission for most people. It certainly is for me. Stepping into the paws of the rambunctious, adorable cats that are the mewing heart of the Capcom's long-running series isn't quite a revelation, but it's a lot of fun nevertheless, their simplified movesets and capacity for resource gathering making them the ideal way to kick back and enjoy the sights and sounds of Monster Hunter.

Generations offers what's probably the best way to take in all that half-drunk pastoral whimsy that defines Capcom's series in, offering as it does a kind of gentle tour through its recent history, a greatest hits compilation that's benefited from a gentle remaster incorporating all the bells and whistles Monster Hunter has acquired over the past few years. Old villages return, as do old characters, monsters and locales. It's got the taint of nostalgia to it all, a warm waft of familiarity that makes those first dozen hours getting reacquainted with it all feel like a reassuring hug from an old friend.

The opening hours feel much slower in pace than last time out - a disappointment after the brilliantly swift introduction to Monster Hunter 4.

That's not to say Generations doesn't have the capacity to surprise, or to simply overwhelm. There's plenty that's new here, and so deep are the systems that have accumulated for this latest Monster Hunter those first few hours feel like staring into an abyss - albeit one you can't wait to dive into and get impossibly lost amidst all the many options on offer. Generations' headline new feature sees the introduction of Arts, movesets that sit under the regular strings of combos you have access to, and that are topped up over the course of a battle.

It's another level of depth, another layer to peel away over the dozens of hours Monster Hunter politely steals away from you. A dozen hours in, I'm still stuck recklessly experimenting with the newly introduced styles now available - Adept is for skilled players (which counts me out), opening up powerful counterattacks for those with a strong sense of timing, Striker affords a more aggressive approach while Guild feels like it's there for traditionalists, coming closer to the style of Monster Hunter 4. Aerial, meanwhile, replaces your dodge roll with a little hop, making it that little bit easier to mount monsters - or just letting you bound across the fields with the enthusiasm of a newborn Moofah.

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There's a lot for returning players to get their heads around, essentially, and a slightly more gentle on-ramp for newcomers too. It all speaks to the fact that Monster Hunter Generations is the broadest game in the series - prior games might be able to boast more monsters to slay, but none of them can quite boast so many different ways to slay them.

For all that, though, Generations doesn't feel it's capable of reaching the heights of Monster Hunter 4, nor is it the best starting place in the series. For all its sprawl, and all of its nods to prior entries, it simply lacks the coherence of its predecessor. That much is to be expected, it figures, in what often feels like a whistlestop tour of past triumphs, and while there's something to be said for its open-armed approach - villages are all unlocked with a couple of hours of play, for example - it misses the through line that Monster Hunter 4's story provided.

Generations doesn't feel like a significant step forward for the series, then - and with the spin-off Stories taking up duty this year in Japan, my money's on the next big leap forward for Monster Hunter taking place as part of the Nintendo NX's line-up sometime next year - but it's a well-earned moment of reminiscence for the series. And you can play as a cat. You can't really go too far wrong with that.

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